It’s hard to say why, upon first reading, Jonathan Maberry’s first issue as writer of “Black Panther” reminds me so much of Christopher Priest’s run on the book. There isn’t that irreverent sense of humor that Priest brought to it, for instance, or the deliberately disjointed timeline that Priest so often used as a storytelling device. But Maberry (who co-authors this issue before taking the book over entirely next month) seems to have brought the same sense of political drama to the book that Priest had over his long reign on the book.
Maberry’s first issue is at a bit of a slow burn, to be fair. He sets the stage for those who hadn’t been reading for a while, introducing the new Black Panther (Shuri, T’Challa’s sister) and showing that while she is now the leader of the Wakandan people, her position is still slightly uneasy. Maberry and co-author Reginald Hudlin wisely split the action between the United States and Wakanda, the series not forgetting about T’Challa as he recovers from an assassination attempt and tries to adjust to his new status as the former Black Panther. It’s good, though; the drama feels less super-villain and more international espionage, and as much as I groaned at yet another President Obama cameo in Marvel Comics (enough already), it’s one of the few that actually fit with the story and made sense.
I hadn’t realized until after I’d read the issue that Maberry holds a black belt in jujutsu and wrote several novels dealing with martial arts, but in retrospect it makes sense. He and artist Will Conrad do a good job with choreographing a fight between Black Panther and her foes in the streets of Washington DC, and it helps bring a gritty, realistic feel to the entire issue. Conrad himself has a strong art style; it reminds me a bit of departing artist Ken Lashley, but with a more solid sense of character design and anatomy. (As a resident of the DC area for over 30 years, though, I have to say that Conrad’s depiction of the city looks nothing like where I call home. At least there aren’t any skyscrapers in the backgrounds.)
This is a solid first issue for Maberry, as well as a high note for Hudlin to depart upon. Maberry’s managed to get my interest hooked enough to see how he does solo next month. Already, I feel like this book is going somewhere, and that destination seems like a good one. It’s been a while since I’ve been eager to read another issue of “Black Panther.”